Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rihanna - "S&M" (Music Video Review)

Is it possible for a female pop star to make a video that doesn't riff on Madonna (or Britney Spears)? Perhaps not, but as Lady Gaga has shown, it is possible to riff on Madonna (or Britney Spears) without sacrificing originality or looking stupid (Christina Aguilera, take note).

Case in point: Rihanna dropped her new video for "S&M," one of the better tracks on Loud that has wisely been chosen as the newest single, which follows up the chart-topping one-two punch of "Only Girl (In the World)" and "What's My Name?." While Madonna's "Erotica," "Human Nature" and "Justify My Love" all toyed with the S&M theme (get it?), they put the sexuality at the forefront, not needing to utilize it as subtext - but then, pioneers rarely need to justify their pioneering in a defense of originality. Thanks to Madonna's monopoly on good ideas, her followers (that would be just about every solo female pop singer since) have no such luxury. The best of the current crop, however, can still touch upon themes already covered by the Queen of Pop, as long as they use a fresh lens and a few unique ideas. As you might remember, I would NEVER have imagined I would be placing Rihanna on that list, but sometime in 2010 the girl went shopping and brought home a personality, and now the game has changed.

The "S&M" video, directed by Melina Matsoukas (Lady Gaga's "Just Dance," Beyoncé's "Diva," Rihanna's "Hard" and "Rude Boy"), brings Matsoukas' trademark hectic energy to a satirical spit-take on the dreaded paparazzi, with Rihanna as a mixture of Madonna and Ronald McDonald traipsing about in all sorts of cotton candy fetish gear (when she's not being observed under plastic). It's not the most original pairing of themes: paparazzi have been lambasted in video and song with Britney Spears' "Piece of Me," among many others. Yet somehow Matsoukas' and Rihanna's vision here seems fresh, and the excitement of something new isn't at all hurt by the Barbadian pop star's newfound personality, which continues to bubble effervescently over in every shot. Rihanna manages to be sexy and silly (like Madonna) and she pokes fun at the press without over-vilifying them (like Lady Gaga) so as to come off ungrateful, naive, or just plain mean, except when they get truly out of hand, at which point she really gets her point across (like Britney Spears) by walking one hilariously Perez Hiltonesque figure like a dog [edit: I have been informed that this is, in fact, Perez Hilton], complete with fire hydrant (and I don't mean her hair).

A video that can make me laugh and get aroused at the same time? And from Rihanna, of all people? I like it like it!

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